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In the early 2000s, two important things happened: RIM launched the first Blackberry Smartphone optimised for wireless email use in 2002, and two years later, Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his Harvard dorm room, helping to establish one of the biggest internet phenomena of the 21st century: social networking.
Now, in 2011, the paths of mobile technology and social networking are inextricably linked, in fact, according to eMarketer, by March 2010, 650m people globally were using their mobile for emails and social networking.
Far from being the preserve of the wealthy and the geeky, Smartphones are now increasingly the norm. Cheap handsets, ever-decreasing data charges, improvements in phone browsers and increased 3G coverage have fundamentally changed the way we use our phones.
In a similar way, social networking has revolutionised the way we interact with the internet and with other users.
Users now prefer to ‘trust’ their online networks of friends to recommend interesting and useful content, and it’s this peer-based marketing that can generate a large chunk of traffic to your clients’ sites — providing you get the content right.
It’s a marriage made in cyber-heaven, but how exactly does the marketer use the power of social media to create revenue and leads?
True, the blurring of the lines between desktop and mobile experiences gives the marketer a golden opportunity to stay in constant communication with the customer, but social media and mobile web, when done badly, can have disastrous results.
So where the heck do you start?
Your customer demands speed, 24 hour accessibility, ease of use and great functionality, but don’t just jump on the bandwagon for the sake of it. Different users require different things from mobile, so the key is to analyse your target demographic and optimise according to that.
Start small. Optimise your existing website and newsletters for mobile and build from there. Take time to understand the different segments and user behaviours before jumping right into it.
Convergence is king
The often-touted image of the internet geek in a darkened room is long dead. Nowadays businessmen, students, parents and pensioners are carrying their contacts, emails and social circles around in their pockets.
In the very near future we will be making contactless payments with our mobile phones in ships and on public transport.
Integrating platforms and apps, along with personal email and mobile data creates the opportunity for the marketer to dig deep into the behavioural data and develop new ways of communicating with the customer, giving them a truly joined-up mobile experience.
Who do you think QR?
The use of QR in advertising can tell you lot about your mobile web audience, as Raddison Edwardian recently proved by giving users a direct link on their menus to video content of their meal being prepared.
This is a prime example of bringing an offline experience into the online arena, and can give valuable analytics on the type of person interacting with your brand via the QR code.
Add to this the rise of location-based apps which let you track the physical location of your clients and it becomes clear how the concept of convergence can create mobile marketing revenue.
And again it seems Facebook is one blazing the trail, with Facebook Places. Rather than facing down their opponents, they’ve forged solid partnerships and now have apps like Foursquare, Gowalla, Booyah and Yelp all happily integrating with ‘Places’ to create a solid platform.
Into the future
It seems nowadays there’s an app for just about everything, as people rely on their phones more and more in every day life.
For the marketer, the challenge lies with keeping up to date with advances in technology and making sure mobile content is relevant, engaging and innovative, without overloading your customers’ already busy lives.
The temptation to ‘go mobile’ simply because everyone else has may be strong, but don’t try and catch the wave before you’re fully prepared, or understand what your customers are looking for.